JPML Won’t Centralize Proton Pump Inhibitor Lawsuits. What Happens Next?

Published on February 10, 2017 by Laurie Villanueva

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A panel of federal judges had declined to create a multidistrict litigation for kidney injury lawsuits involving proton pump inhibitors. However, this is hardly the end of litigation involving the popular heartburn medications.

A group of plaintiffs had petitioned the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) last October, seeking centralization of all federally-filed proton pump inhibitor lawsuits in a single U.S. District Court for coordinated pretrial proceedings.  At the time, just 15 cases involving chronic kidney disease, kidney failure, acute kidney injury and acute interstitial nephritis were pending in federal courts around the U.S. However, the docket has since grown to include nearly 100 lawsuits, and plaintiffs contend that the litigation could eventually involve thousands of additional claims due to the massive popularity of drugs like Nexium, Prilosec and PrevAcid.

On February 2nd, the JMPL issued an Order Denying Transfer, finding that too there are too few pending cases to warrant a multidistrict litigation. The Panel also suggested that inclusion of competing pharmaceutical companies in one proceeding would complicate case management, and expressed concern about the multiple products involved in the litigation.

“Although all the subject drugs are PPIs, they are not identical,” wrote the Judge Sarah S. Vance, Chair of the JPML. “Some are available by prescription only, whereas others are sold over-the-counter. Each has a unique development, testing, and marketing history, and each was approved by the FDA at different times.”

None of this means that the proton pump inhibitor litigation has come to an end. In fact, kidney injury cases already pending will move forward, while new claims continue to be filed. At some point, plaintiffs’ attorneys might petition for centralization again, especially if the number of lawsuits continues to grow. They may even seek separate multidistrict litigations for each of the medications involved in the litigation.

Kidney Side Effects Linked to Proton Pump Inhibitors

Medications involved in this litigation include prescription and over-the-counter proton pump inhibitors, such as Nexium, Prilosec and PrevAcid. These drugs are taken by millions of Americans every year to control GERD and other disorders associated with the excess production of stomach acid. However, recent research indicates that many people are using the drugs inappropriately.

Just over two years ago, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) asked the manufacturers of prescription proton pump inhibitors to add information about acute interstitial nephritis to their product labels. A dangerous form of kidney inflammation that is often drug-induced, acute interstitial nephritis can progress to kidney disease and renal failure if not treated appropriately. Since then, a number of studies have suggested that long-term proton pump inhibitor use may also contribute to kidney failure and other serious renal complications.

Bernstein Liebhard is representing individuals who were diagnosed with chronic kidney disease and other kidney ailments that may be associated with the long-term use of proton pump inhibitors. To discuss filing a case of your own, please contact our office by calling (888) 994-8177.

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